Author Archives: chesneyhardin

Benin ICT4D Resources

National ICT Policy

Benin ICT Sector Performance Review 

Last updated: 2010

Organization: Research ICT Africa

Language: English

Notes: Research ICT Africa is based out of Cape Town, South Africa and conducted a study of the situation of Benin’s ICT sector. The results were published in this review.

Government website: Minister of ICT (MCITC)

Komi Kutche

Language: French (translated to English)

Last updated: continuously

Case Study

Organization: Africa Rice

Time Frame: 1971-present

Other external resources

Benin’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom

Note: This resource was useful in understanding the country’s business sector.

PanAfrican Research Agenda on the Pedagogical Integration of ICT

Author: Joseph Tamukong

Finding resources proved easy enough, but the range of studies and resources was lacking. Resources focusing on West Africa were more common than specifically Benin. These were useful in comparing Benin with its neighboring countries. Overall, I was pleased with the amount of resources available considering the country’s small size and lack of global attention.

 


Lessons from ICT: Guidance, not Prescriptions

In development, nothing is clear-cut. Theories and concepts attempt to explain ideal development techniques, but when it comes to implementing a project every decision is situational. With ICT in particular, projects must be tailored for the community where the project will be implemented, but there are lessons to be learned from recurring problems faced by ICT projects. Two of the most notable lessons to be learned in ICT are the choice of appropriate technology and the incorporation of physical community.

Choosing appropriate technology for a project deserves a considerable amount of research and deliberation. The choice will be a significant determinant for whether a project will be successful or not. Often projects will create flashy apps or devices to attract donors, but the practicality of the technology is lacking. We learned that radio is one of the most widely used technologies. However, radio isn’t incorporated in ICT projects as often as newer ICTs. Introducing new technology requires training and funding to provide the new devices. If a community is already familiar with an ICT, then it is best to adapt your project to incorporate that ICT.

Secondly, incorporating physical community is vital. ICT provides an efficient way to share information, but physical community is needed to ensure that the information is used. Support groups should be encouraged so communities can share their experiences with each other and learn together. ICTs should not encourage isolation of individuals, but provide information that communities can use to work and learn together.

Overall, there are many lessons to be learned from previous case studies and these lessons should help make, but not dictate, decisions for future projects.


“For the best of social media”: The Shorty Awards

The Shorty Awards. I almost thought they were a joke when I first came upon them. Anyone can tweet in a nominee for any of the 6,067 categories, including “Keep Good Going” and “Weird”. Although I do not dismiss the impact social media can have, these awards exemplify many of the reasons why true activism and revolutions cannot purely happen through social media.

ashorty

First off, the number of categories is mind-boggling and anyone can create another one. There are so many that the “awards” begin to lose their meaning. This is representative of the number of pages dedicated to so many causes. Many of them could be grouped together and have a more united front, but instead everyone wants recognition.

Recognition. Everyone wants an award. Social media is a wonderful platform for people who want to constantly be acknowledged for their “activism”. Activism isn’t always about making a statement to a huge crowd, but it’s also about the small decisions in everyday life. The Internet is connecting people to the trendy, global issues but the close-to-home issues often get left behind. After all, there’s not enough people in your community to reach 50 million likes.

Social media can be a great tool to connect activists and to raise awareness, but it should not be used as a cop out to take physical action. We need to stop worrying about the world hearing every cause we like or every issue we want to share. We are losing connections with the issues and the people that surround us everyday, because we are constantly bombarded by bigger and badder problems somewhere else.

And don’t feel like you need to win an award, because it’s not that special when there are 6,000+ out there.

 


OLPC: Still alive?

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much confusion and debate as to whether One Laptop Per Child is still a functioning project. OLPC News announced on March 11, “OLPC is dead.” This was not so surprising considering the harsh criticism the project has received since it began. However, the statement may not be true.

Rodrigo Arboleda, the CEO of the One Laptop Per Child Association in Miami, provided a rebuttal arguing that OLPC is alive now more than ever. He explained that the project is about to distribute 50,00 XO-4 Touch Tablets to students in Uruguay. In an interview with Xconomy, Arboleda explained that OLPC’s original vision was to focus on education rather than the distribution of laptops and the project will be heading back towards that original mission.

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Arboleda plans to focus on more educational “learning-by-doing” tools that can be used with the devices already distributed. Although I believe this is a good approach for the future, I can’t help criticize the idea of considering learning through a computer as “learning-by-doing”. Sitting at a computer and playing games is not “doing” anymore than sitting in a classroom or using workbooks.

OLPC is obviously not dead yet. The project is taking on a new approach that will hopefully gain it some of its credibility back.


Digital Study Hall: Beyond the Classroom

The Digital Study Hall is a project that aims to develop the rural educational system in India through the use of video. Students watch recorded instructional videos of some of the best teachers in the country. Here is a short example:

Teachers then supplement the videos with engaging activities and discussions. The majority of the students really enjoy the DSH videos, but issues with sustainability and theft have prevented the project from scaling up. DSH researchers constantly monitor the schools and without their oversight, the projects would would lose momentum and fail.

Although there are many flaws with DSH in the classroom, the implementation of DSH has created a network of teachers and parents. With the technology in place, teachers are being taught about gender rights and other social issues. Through videos, teachers are learning how to make parent-teacher meetings more interesting and productive by discussing social issues.

The Study Hall Educational Foundation launched a campaign called “India’s Daughters”. With all the teachers, parents, and students engaged in DSH,  over 22,000 people were mobilized for a rally against child marriage.

Even if the initial goal of the project has not been successful, the project has provided the technology and connections to give rise to other social change.

 


All in Eight Boxes

As an International Development major, I’ve been familiar with the Millennium Development Goals for quite some time. The United Nations’ MDGs have always seemed like a fairytale to me. The goals paint a glossy picture of what they (whoever decided on these outlandish goals) think the world should look like. They categorized the goals into eight wonderful boxes and asked the world to accept them.

Though it seems nice, we can not shove all of the world’s problems into  eight boxes. Many of the problems are too complex  and interconnected to be put in different categories. While the first category, “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” seems over simplified by placing these two problems together.

Hunger and poverty are absolutely intertwined, but they don’t necessarily have to be. As an avid gardener, I believe we can be rich in food even if we are poor by the rest of the world’s standards. Not everything has to be solved within the system we have now; not everything has to go through the economy. Not everything can be put into boxes.

Something interesting I came across while researching the MDGs was a map. The UN has created a map to monitor the progress of the goals. This map below shows the percentage of the population who are undernourished. Surprisingly, Canada and India are very close at 8.9% and 8.6%. The map also shows Spain at 24.0% and Côte d’Ivoire at 5.0%. Take a look and make conclusions for yourself by comparing the countries.

Percentage of population undernourished

In the end, we like having everything in boxes and categories because it makes the problems seem less daunting and easily conceptualized. However, here lies the real issue. If we convince ourselves that these problems are less complex than they really are then there is no hope of solving them


Misconceptions in development research

From studying development for almost three years now, I have learned the importance of understanding the context of information given to me. Information, including data and analysis, differs depending on the definitions of terms/indicators, the source, presenter/author, and much more.

Before beginning the book for our class, ICT4D, I decided to google the author, Tim Unwin.

Image

It turns out he has a blog himself. First, I looked at his “About Me”. His accomplishments were lengthy and his experience was understatedly impressive. As I started scrolling through his blog posts, I found one called “On “cyber” and the dangers of elision.” The post explained the true definition of “cyber” and all of the misunderstandings surrounding the word, especially when used in relation to development. This is a common occurrence in development work and it’s important to bring attention to the fact when it happens like Unwin did in his post.

Misunderstandings and misconceptions about information/terminology has been a main topic of discussion in our last few classes. For example, even the most basic regions may be defined differently from report to report. It becomes even more confusing once you start considering “happiness” indicators.

The moral of the story: When reading a paper about development, one can never make assumptions about parameters/indicators without looking at the way they were defined.